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Tackling future challenges in STEM education

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KUALA LUMPUR: Would we have enough experts in science, technology and innovation (STI) to meet future challenges as listed under the 11th Malaysia Plan?

Are we producing enough engineers and mathematicians nearing 2020, the year we are supposed to become a developed nation?

These were among the topics discussed in the forum entitled “International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: High Level Policy Forum on Evidence based Science Education in Developing Countries” held on May 26-27 at Hotel Istana.

The objective of the forum was to:  

  • To review successful initiatives in enhancing STEM education in the developed world;
  • To draw experiences that are relevant to developing countries in developing a sound STEM education programme;
  • To evolve strategies for a successful STEM education programme as a national agenda; and
  • To review engagement with various stakeholders in promoting STEM education. 

One of the panellist, Ministry of Education’s Education Planning and Research Division director Dr Azian Tengku Syed Abdullah said the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 aims at, among others, improving the learning and teaching process of science and mathematics related subjects to get more students to enrol into science streams.

She admitted that despite having the 60:40 ratio target of having more students to enrol into science streams since the 1960s, the government has not been able to meet the target.

“The Malaysia Education Blueprint will address the weaknesses through various measures. Among the steps is to revamp the way we teach science and maths in schools.

Resolutions to the minister

“The new teaching and learning will focus on developing our students’ higher order thinking skills, allow project-based system and use ICT based games to make the subjects fun.

“Plus, the ministry will also minimise content overlap with other subjects,” she said.

A delegate from Brunei Darussalam shared her views on the matter as well and shared her nation’s success story in implementing the Inquiry Based Science Education System (IBSE) .

Brunei Ministry of Education’s Human Resource Development Division senior education officer Masdiah Tuah said that her government had placed heavy emphasis on IBSE and improving the teaching and learning system, as envisioned under the Ministry of Education Strategic Plan 2007-2011 and subsequently, 2012-2017.

“Among the methods used to create interest among students are simulations, role play, experiments and group discussions,” said Masdiah.

At the end of the forum, the delegates passed several resolutions which are:

  • It is a priority for all governments and  Ministries of Education to improve education in all STEM subjects;
  • Ministries of Education should implement small scale but high quality pilot projects on proven hands on inquiry-based methods of science teaching by those who have received training in view of the positive impact on performance in national and international assessment as proven in other pilots already conducted. These pilot projects could act as demonstration prototypes;
  • More time should be given to science subjects to enable teachers to carry out inquiry-based science approaches;
  • Schools should be given greater autonomy in choosing textbooks and in implementing the science curriculum;
  • STEM teachers should have access to continuous professional development on delivery methods to encourage inquiry thinking.

The resolution was passed to the Minister of Education II, Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh, who graced the event during the closing ceremony. 

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